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Teacher's love of theater also has made impact on community

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Teacher's love of theater also has made impact on community
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

NEW LONDON -- After almost a year of work at NLS, English teacher Benjamin Mooberry told a colleague that he wanted his 12th-grade English class to read the musical "Man of La Mancha." He was instructed to visit Jerry Tedrow -- a teacher Mooberry hadn't really connected with yet.

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"So I ambled my way down there," Mooberry said, remembering a spring 2003 visit with Tedrow. " ... I walked in there and I was hooked. He was just like a kid in a candy store. ... He was just pulling scripts off the shelves right and left."

Mooberry realized he had tapped into one of the loves of Tedrow's life -- theater -- and just one of the reasons why many community members know him and many students remember him.

Starting in 1970, Tedrow led the evolution of the Little Theatre of New London, turning the small venue into an in-demand cultural center as he directed numerous productions. Tedrow said the quest started with a bunch of students who wanted to produce better plays than The Barn in Willmar.

"On May 29, we went in there and started working. And we pulled off a show on July 2," Tedrow said. "And it exploded."

Tedrow said the theater was designed to hold 206 people. During one of the early shows, he recalled that "Love Rides the Rails" attracted 290.

Longtime teaching colleague Terry Holmquist said Tedrow was instrumental in transforming the Little Theatre into a New London hot spot.

"I think (the Little Theatre) is a lasting tribute to Jerry because he was the original mover and shaker in all that," Holmquist said.

But to Tedrow's teaching colleagues, his zest for fresh laughter is just as memorable as his theater work.

Holmquist said Tedrow was quite a prankster in their early teaching years. He recalled Tedrow rolling a bowling ball into an English teacher's room one time as she taught class. There was another occasion, Holmquist said, when Tedrow instructed a class of students to meet in the gymnasium while their teacher took a smoke break before class. Holmquist said the teacher, who was always a couple minutes late, "spent the whole period running around the school, rounding his class up."

Many New London residents also remember Tedrow as the guy riding through the town parade while sitting in a tub on a trailer, occasionally tossing a water balloon into the crowds as he mimicked taking a bath. Tedrow said his role in the parade began about 20 years ago and ended around 2004.

Underneath the hilarity, many saw Tedrow's thoughtful, compassionate side as well.

Mooberry said Tedrow acquired a nickname -- "the Phantom" -- because of some of the favors he would do for co-workers without their knowledge. For example, Tedrow would clean all the overhead projectors in the New London-Spicer School District buildings in the summer before the school year started. But Tedrow didn't want anyone to know, Mooberry said, because he never wanted recognition.

"He's just had a real profound, positive impact on the world," Mooberry said. "Especially around kids and people around here in the New London-Spicer area."

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